Clach Mhallaichte, Cromarty, Ross & Cromarty

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NH 7949 6746

Also Known as:

  1. Clach Mallach
  2. Clach na Mallachd
  3. Clackmalloch Rock
  4. Stone of Cursing

Archaeology & History

Stone shown on 1880 map

This large boulder found off the Cromarty coast, was highlighted on the 1880 OS-map of the region.  It is one of the ancient boundary stones of the township.

Folklore

We know from the vast array on the folklore of stones that many were imbued with magickal abilities, some of which were witnesses to vows and others to make curses from.  This large boulder off the coast of Cromarty was, according to Donald MacKenzie (1935), a place where the latter used to be done.  He told us:

“At Cromarty there is a big boulder known as the Clach na Mallachd (‘Stone of Cursing’).  Curses were delivered when an individual stood or knelt bare-kneed upon it.”

In an earlier account by the Ordnance Survey lads in one of their Name Books, they gave the following tale that had been narrated to them:

“A large stone Situate at the Low Water, and forming one of the boundary Stones of the burgh, the reason of its having this name is, that a young lad while Sitting on it was overwhelmed by the advancing tide and drowned, his mother when told of it, cursed the stone, hence the name Clach Mallach (Accursed Stone)”

References:

  1. MacKenzie, Donald A., Scottish Folk-lore and Folk Life, Blackie: Glasgow 1935.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.680797, -4.022601 Clach Mhallaichte

Cradle Stone, Crieff, Perthshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NN 8654 2272

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25498

Getting Here

Cradle Stone on 1866 map

A bit troublesome to locate if you don’t know the area.  Get into the town centre where the paved St George Square is by the main road.  Cross the road and go up Hill Street, which runs straight into Ferntower Road.  A few hundred yards up turn left up Ewanfield, all the way to the very end at Crieff Hydro.  From here you’ll see the path uphill by the tennis courts.  Walk up and past the holiday chalets until your hit the road that curls round the bottom of the woods.  Go along until you find the car park and just above here by the roadside is a tourist board showing the Knock Walk footpath. The Cradle Stone is about 250 yards up the Knock Walk from here, 100 yards into the woods on the right.

Archaeology & History

This large broken boulder is the result of it once living further up the hillside.  One of Nature’s great forces then kicked the olde fella and he rolled down the hill to its present position.  It was mentioned in a detailed 19th century geological survey by Mr Thomson (1836), where he told:

“At Crieff, in Perthshire, there occurs a series of low hills running parallel to the Grampians.  These hills consist of old red sandstone and greywacke.  On one of them, the Cnock, the village of Crieff is built.  Upon the south-east side of this hill, towards the southern extremity, not far from the summit, there are deposited a number of boulder stones of syenitic granite. The largest of these is called the ‘Cradlestone’.  It is nearly spherical, quite smooth on the surface, and 29 feet in circumference.  It has been split in two by lightning, (according to the tradition of the place,) and one of the fragments has made one complete revolution down the hill and then stopped.  The weight of this boulder is about 30 tons.  The nearest mountains of syenitic granite, are those in the neighbourhood of Bennevis, distant more than 60 miles north-west…”

The stone was subsequently entered in Fred Cole’s (1911) outstanding survey of the local megaliths, although acknowledged it has having no archaeological pedigree.  The Cradle Stone, he wrote, is

“the appellation printed in Old English lettering on the Ordnance Map, given to one of two huge boulders difficult to find in the fir-woods at the western extremity of the Knock, and at a height of nearly 600 feet,  midway between Knockearn House and Culcrieff.   On visiting the site, the conclusion became apparent that these two blocks were merely natural curiosities, and had no interest for the archaeologist beyond the name.”

Folklore

In volume 10 of the New Statistical Account it was told how local folklore attested the Cradle Stone as being where the babies came from, perhaps intimating some fertility legend long since forgotten.

The main thing attached to this giant broken stone is the old folk-tale that used to be more well-known in the 19th century than it is today.  It was narrated at length in Macara’s (1881) fine pot pourri of local histories and legends and which I hope you can forgive me citing in its entirity here:

“In the memory of men still living, two well-known weavers, named James Livingstone and James M’Laren, lived in Barnkettick, at the west end of the town. Livingstone was a thorough wag, and M’Laren was somewhat of a simpleton. Livingstone was in the habit of telling his neighbour all sorts of extravagant stories about ghosts and witches.  The facility with which the latter fraternity could turn themselves into hares and scamper about was an accepted fact, which M’Laren as truly believed as his Bible.

“The Rocking or Cradle Stone on the brow of the Knock, behind the town, was supposed to be of Druidical origin, and for ages drew forth the fear and wonder of the natives. A belief prevailed that something valuable was buried in its foundation, and worth lifting, if it could only be got at.  Livingstone having heard of “Whang, the Miller” directed McLaren’s attention to the subject of valuable treasure being beneath the cradle stone, which was greedily swallowed, and he expressed his astonishment that no one tried digging for it.

“Livingstone suggested that they both should try it, and divide the spoil. M’Laren agreed, and it was resolved to make the attempt that night after dusk.  The necessary picks and spades were soon borrowed.  Livingstone called on an acquaint- ance or two, and informed them of the “ploy,” and they readily agreed to arrange and have some fun at the “howking” of the treasure.

“The acquaintances were up at the spot early, with a view to set some snares for hares, so that the journey would combine pleasure with profit.  They had also provided a few “squibs” for contingencies.  At the time appointed the two weavers, with their implements on their shoulders, arrived at the stone and set to work.  M’Laren did so with strong impressions of a coming calamity, which soon made him feel the greatest terror.  Livingstone worked with a will, and upbraided M’Laren with cowardice.

“With that a strange, unearthly sound came up the hill, and on looking round, a ball of fire was seen careering through the underwood.  M’Laren felt queerish and almost speechless. Another hissing sound was heard, and the strange fire came nearer.  Livingstone still wrought on, telling M’Laren never to heed, as these things were only bits of falling stars.  M’Laren thought otherwise. They were in the neighbourhood of Monzie, where it was certain there were plenty of witches, and it was evident something “no canny” was brewing.  He would have given anything to have been at his loom.

“In an instant three or four fiery darts from different directions came hissing along, and darted through the heath at their feet.  M’Laren was paralysed with fear.  Livingstone ceased work instantly, and jumping out of the trench he made, yelled he smelt brimstone, rushed from the stone and was lost in the darkness.  Poor M’Laren’s limbs trembled like a leaf and were scarcely able to support him.  As he was trying to follow his companion, another fire shower rained about him, and down the hill he went like a deer, yelling on Livingstone to wait on him.

“As he neared the parks above Milnab, the hares acid rabbits were scampering in all directions, and a few found their necks in the snares, which caused them to squeal at the pitch of their voices too.  M’Laren being now thoroughly convinced that the witches were let loose, speed was added to his limbs, and with supernatural fleetness he bounded over all obstructions and found himself in an instant or two in his room, and jumped into bed.  A cold sweat broke out all over his body and his heart beat with sharp thuds, shaking the bed.  It was some time ere he could collect his scattered senses, so as to realise whether or not he was dreaming. The moisture in his eyes caused every blink of the fire to appear like the horrid hissing fire darts of the Knock. After a time he fell into a stupor, the recent events being still vividly before his mind.

“His cronies on the Knock tumbled amongst the heather and broom, shouting with joy at the success of the scheme.  After giving vent to their excited feelings they went back to the Cradle Stone and lifted the picks and spades, and on their way home went round the snares and found a good “take.”  As they were killing the hares, Livingstone suggested that a live one be taken to M’Laren, which was readily agreed to.  On reaching home, Livingstone slipped into M’Laren’s house, and all seemed at rest.  Creeping quietly ben to Jamie’s end of the bigging, he tied the live hare to the foot of his bed.  As he was retiring he jostled against the hen roost and set the cock a-crowing, which so far roused Jamie that he thought it was scarcely morning yet.  The cock crowed away, and soon the neighbouring roosts bestirred themselves, and all the cocks in the neighbourhood returned the vocal sound, as if it were morning.

“Poor Jamie, on reflecting, resolved that if he got over the present raising of “Auld Clootie” scathless, he would pledge himself never to trouble him or his again.  As he thus pondered he thought he heard a strange pattering on the floor, and an occasional slight pull at the bed.  On straining his eyes and looking floorwards he saw something not unlike a reputed witch moving about the foot of the bed.  On closer observation this was fully confirmed, and he instinctively roared for help.  His daft brother was now roused, and he roared also, and the hamlet dogs lent a willing voice.  The wags who had collected outside rushed in, and on putting some fir roots on the fire the blaze showed Jamie, nearly demented, in bed, with his wearing clothes still on, and some dogs entering the room set a-worrying the hare.  At the sight of well-known faces Jamie jumped out of bed.  So much excited that it was feared that the joke had been carried rather far.  Livingstone was still equal to the occasion, and drawing a bottle of whisky from his pocket handed round a few glasses, and in a short time “they didna care for deils a boddle.”  Jamie was advised to divest himself of his clothes and go to bed, which he did, and soon fell into a deep sleep, and awakened next morning not much the worse.  The affair got wind, and many a country fireside was made merry by the story of the Cradle Stone treasure.”

References:

  1. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire, Principally Strathearn” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  2. Macara, Duncan, Crieff: Its Tradtions and Characters, D. Macara: Edinburgh 1881.
  3. Thomson, Thomas, Outlines of Mineralogy, Geology and Mineral Analysis – volume 2, Baldwin & Cradock: Edinburgh 1836.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.383100, -3.839090 Cradle Stone

Devil’s Stone, Winceby, Lincolnshire

Legendary Rock (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TF 3127 6901

Also Known as:

  1. Big Stone of Slash Lane

Archaeology & History

Stone shown on 1887 map

There is no specific archaeological information about this stone.  However, we must take note of the so-called “devil’s footprint” that was on the boulder.  In some parts of the UK, some devilish and other mythic footprints on stone are prehistoric cup-markings; but we have no idea whether this impression was such a carving or—more probably in this case—Nature’s handiwork.  The field in which the stone existed was said to be the place where the so-called Battle of Winceby occurred.

Folklore

The stone was mentioned in several old tomes, with each one generally repeating the same familiar story, and with motifs that will be familiar to antiquarians and folklorists alike.  In an early edition of Notes & Queries we were told of,

“the large stone in Winceby field, where soldiers had sharpened their swords before the battle. This was a stone of fearful interest, for much treasure was supposed to have been buried under it. Numerous attempts have been made to get at this treasure, but they were always defeated by some accident or piece of bad luck. On the last occasion, by ‘yokkin’ several horses to chains fastened round the stone, they nearly succeeded in pulling it over, when, in his excitement, one of the men uttered an oath, and the devil instantly appeared, and stamped on it with his foot.  “Tha cheans all brok, tha osses fell, an’ tha stoan went back t’ its owd place solidder nur ivver; an’ if ya doan’t believe ya ma goa an’ look fur yer sen, an’ ya’ll see tha divvill’s fut mark like three kraws’ claws, a-top o’ tha stoan.’  It was firmly believed the lane was haunted, and that loud groans were often heard there.”

The tale was retold in Grange & Hudson’s (1891) essay on regional folklore.  In Mr Walter’s (1904) excellent local history survey, there was an additional shape-shifting element to the story which, in more northern climes, is usually attributed to hare; but this was slightly different.  The stone, as we’ve heard,

“was supposed to cover hidden treasure, and various attempts were made at different times to remove it, sometimes with six or even eight horses. At one of these attempts, his Satanic Majesty, having been invoked by the local title of ‘Old Lad’ appeared, it is said, in person, where upon the stone fell back, upsetting the horses.  On another occasion a black mouse, probably the same Being incarnate in another form…ran over the gearing of the horses, with a similar result.  Eventually, as a last resort, to break the spell, the boulder was buried, and now no trace of the boulder, black mouse, or Satan’s foot-print remains.”

Sadly we have no sketches of the devil’s ‘footprint’; and if local lore is right, we’ll never know.  For tis said that a local farmer in the 1970s dug down and removed the stone completely.  All that he found were numerous broken ploughshares around the rock, indicating that many tools had been used to shift the stone.

References:

  1. Grange, Ernest L. & Hudson, J.C. (eds.), Lincolnshire Notes and Queries – volume 2, W.K. Morton: Horncastle 1891.
  2. Gutch, Mrs & Peacock, Mabel, Examples of Printed Folklore Concerning Lincolnshire, David Nutt: London 1908.
  3. Walter, J. Conway, Records, Historical and Antiquarian of Parishes around Horncastle, W.K. Morton: Horncastle 1904.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

 

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  53.201966, -0.036193 Devil\'s Stone

Clochoderick Stone, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire

Rocking Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 37363 61280

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 42329

Archaeology & History

The Clochoderick Stone

On the outer southern edge of Kilbarchan parish—right near the ancient boundary line itself—this giant stone of the druids is seems to be well-known by local folk.  Located about 40 yards away from the sacred ‘St Bride’s Burn’ (her ‘Well’ is several hundred yards to the west), it was known to have been a rocking stone in early traditions, but as Glaswegian antiquarian Frank Mercer told us, “the stone no longer moves.”  The creation myths underscoring its existence, as Robert Mackenzie (1902) told us, say

“This remarkable stone, thought by some to have been set up by the druids, and by others to have been carried hither by a glacier, is now believed to be the top of a buried lava cone rising through lavas of different kind.”

Clochoderick Stone on 1857 map

The site was highlighted on the first OS-map of the area in 1857, but the earliest mention of it seems to be as far back as 1204 CE, where it was named as Clochrodric and variants on that title several times in the 13th century.  It was suggested by the old place-name student, Sir H. Maxwell, to derive from ‘the Stone of Ryderch’, who was the ruler of Strathclyde in the 6th century.  He may be right.

Folklore

Folklore told that this stone was not only the place where the druids held office and dispensed justice, but that it was also the burial-place of the Strathclyde King, Ryderch Hael.

References

  1. Campsie, Alison, “Scotland’s Mysterious Rocking Stones,” in The Scotsman, 17 August, 2017.
  2. MacKenzie, Robert D., Kilbarchan: A Parish History, Alexander Gardner: Paisley 1902.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to Frank Mercer for use of his photos and catalytic inception for this site profile.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.817286, -4.597285 Clochoderick Stone

Echo Stone, Mugdock, Stirlingshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NS 5493 7710

Also known as:

  1. Historic Environment Record Stirling 3745

Getting Here

Echo Stone on 1865 Map

Echo Stone on 1865 Map

Enter Mugdock Country Park from the south-east entrance along Mugdock Road from Milngavie. The Stone is visible in rough grass from the path to the south – west of Mugdock Castle. It is about 2 feet high and is identified by a small coloured wooden marker post.

Archaeology & History

The earliest records of this stone occur in the mid-nineteenth century.  Writing in 1854, Hugh Macdonald described the Stone:

“There is an echo of considerable local celebrity at Mugdock, the reverberative powers of which are frequently put to the test by visitors. The spot from which the echo is most distinctly heard is a slightly projecting rock, on a verdant declivity, about a hundred yards to the south of the castle. A person standing on this, looking towards the edifice, and speaking pretty loudly, will hear his words, or even short sentences uttered by him, repeated with startling distinctness, as if from some mimic at the old tower. Of course, we give the echo sundry specimens of our vocality, and to its credit we must say that it flings them back with amazing fidelity. Paddy Blake’s echo, which on the question being put to it of ‘How are you?’ invariably answered ‘Pretty well, I thank you!’ was unmistakeably a native of the land of Bulls. The Mugdock one must be as decidedly Scottish, as it answers each question put to it by asking another. If there were any doubt on this subject, however, we might mention, in support of our supposition, that it is quite au fait at the Gaelic, as we proved to the entire satisfaction of a cannie bystander, who, after listening in silence for some time to our mutual interrogations in that classic tongue, at length exclaimed, ‘Od, man, that’s curious! Wha wad hae thocht that a Lawlan’ echo could hae jabbered Gaelic?’”

IMG_3823

The Stone with its marker post

Samuel Lewis, writing before 1846:  “At a distance of about 300 yards from this castle is a remarkable echo, which distinctly reverberates a sentence of six monosyllables, if uttered in a loud tone; and this not till a few seconds after the sentence is completed”.

You'll be impressed by the echo!

You’ll be impressed by the echo!

Stand by this low, flat topped stone, and your calls will echo distinctly, whether or not you face the castle. We found that the echo seemed more pronounced after dark, but that may have been a result of there being less ambient noise at night. We can only speculate as to how people in distant times reacted to the echo, and it is interesting how MacDonald’s Gaelic-speaking friend reacted to the echo, almost as if he believed it to be a living organism which he did not expect to reply in his own language. We were both impressed by this powerful natural phenomenon.

References:

  1. MacDonald, Hugh, Rambles Round Glasgow, Descriptive, Historical & Traditional, John Smith & Son: Glasgow 1854 & 1910.
  2. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland – 2 volumes, S Lewis & Co.: London 1846

Acknowledgements:  Thanks and a tip of the Hatlo hat to Nina Harris for informing me of the existence of the Echo Stone and for driving me up there a couple of times.

© Paul T. Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian 2016

 

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  55.964984, -4.325561 Echo Stone

Clach na h-ealea, Clachan, Lismore, Argyll

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NM 861 435

Also Known as:

  1. Clach na h-eala
  2. Stone of the Swan
  3. Swan Stone

Archaeology & History

Although the lads at the Scottish Royal Commission (1974) initially described this site as a ‘Standing Stone’, it is in fact,

“an erratic boulder of granite roughly shaped in the form of a cross… It measures 0.8m in height, 0.6m in width at base, and 0.4m in width at the top…(and) the stone is supposed to have marked a boundary.”

The site was evidently of some mythic importance, as the great Cathedral of St. Moluag was built next to the stone — unless the giant cairn of Cnoc Aingil, 500 yards away, was to blame. A holy well of this saint’s name (an obvious heathen site beforehand) is also nearby.

Folklore

Although this stone was dedicated to swans, I’ve not found the story behind the name.  There were no buried swans here, but local tradition told that this old boulder could give sanctuary to anyone who touched it, or ran round it sunwise.  The Hebridean folklorist Otta Swire (1964) told that,

“anyone who claimed such sanctuary had his case considered by ‘the Elders.’ If they considered his plea justified, they ‘came out and walked sun-wise round the Swan Stone.’ If they did not approve of his right to sanctuary, they walked round it anti-clockwise and the man was then given over, not to his enemies, but ‘to Authority’ to be tried.”

This old tradition derives from well known pre-christian rites. Swire also reported that even in the 1960s here, “at funerals the coffin is always carried round the grave sun-wise before being laid in it.” An old cross placed in the Field of the Cross next to the stone was an attempt to tease folk away from heathen rites of the stone, but failed.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 2: Lorn, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1974.
  2. Swire, O.F., The Inner Hebrides and their Legends, Collins: London 1964.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.534882, -5.479486 Clach na h-ealea

Clach na Ba, St Fillans, Comrie, Perthshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NN 70318 24159

Clach na Ba, from roadside

Also Known as:

  1. Stone of the Cattle

Getting Here

Along the A85 road at the east-end of Lochearnhead, head out of the village east towards Comrie. Just above the main-road, maybe 50 yards after passing the small road to St Fillan’s Golf Club, on the north side of the road you’ll see a huge boulder resting in the edge of the garden of the large detached house that was known as The Oaks.  That’s the fella!

Archaeology & History

Clach na Ba, from the rear

Almost fallen out of history, oral tradition has thankfully kept the name and brief history of this huge boulder alive.  Found in association with the prehistoric standing stones just yards away, the Clach na Ba lives beside the ancient drover’s road (and probable prehistoric route before that) just yards east of the old cottage known as Casetta.  This occupies a site where an old toll-house stood, and the drovers would have to stop and pay a toll before continuing onwards past the Clach na Ba, or Stone of the Cattle.

Folklore

When the drovers passed their highland cattle here, the animals rubbed themselves against the stone to ensure good health and fertility (as well as just having a good scratch, no doubt).

References:

  1. Porteous, Alexander, Annals of St Fillans, David Philips: Crieff 1912.

Acknowledgements:  With huge thanks to Nina Harris and Paul Hornby for the day out and for use of their photos in this site-profile; and to the lovely couple (we didn’t get their names – soz) who live in the house behind the Clach na Ba, for their help with the fascinating local history .

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.391839, -4.102239 Clach na Ba

White Stane of Tam Baird, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Legendary Rock: OS Grid Reference – NS 94135 99110

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48293
  2. Tom Baird’s Stone
  3. White Stone of Tombaird

Getting Here

The White Stane of Tam Baird

Very troublesome for so little a stone. But to the nutters or climbers who enjoy a good bimble: if you’re coming on the A91 from Tillycoultry take the dirt-track up to Harviestoun, but if you’re coming from Dollar, take the dirt-track up past Belmont House – either way, keep walking till you get to Kennel Cottage. Walk past here and into the woods, then follow the burn (stream) uphill. It’s a steep climb, with waterfalls and mossy rocks. Once out of the woodland, keep following the stream. Several hundred yards uphill, you’ll pass a large rounded hillock on your left. Keep walking up the stream for another 200 yards, then walk to the right of the stream for about 100 yards. You’re damn close!

Archaeology & History

White Stane on the 1819 map

An obscure and little known site outside of the Ochils region, this stone seems to have been described for the first time in 1769 – though local people would obviously have known of its presence and mythic history centuries before this. It was then shown on the 1819 Plan of The Estates of Harviestoun and Castle Campbell, as shown here.  The White Stane is a rounded quartz block about four feet long in the grasses, laid down and hard to find, it would have been impressive had it stood upright – which it may have done in ages not so long ago – in which case we would have had a shining standing stone on the edge of the steep slope halfway up the mountain. A curious ‘D’-shaped carving that seems to be etched on the top of the rock may simply be one of Nature’s simulacra.

The White Stane, looking south

When I arrived at the stone – after taking a typically circuitous bimble up the hillsides, and passing a variety of archaeological relics on the slopes east of the burn – the view was outstanding, looking some 60 miles south into the distant peaks of the Scottish Lowlands, with the sun casting itself over the entire landscape. The quartz rock by my side was gleaming brightly in the fresh daylight. Sitting down by its side, the cold wind cutting over us, a quietude befell the place and, and as I relaxed by its side, fell into a sleep for an hour or so. All was quiet and still in both mind and heart at the stone – then when I came round, I realised the sun was going down and thought it best to get off the mountains before dark!

In Angus Watson’s (1995) survey he told us,

“The 1860 OS Name Book says this is something of a mixture of whinstone and white marble, that the local tradition was that it had been erected to commemorate a battle between Wallace and the English, and that there was “no doubt whatsoever” that it was ‘druidical’!”

Watson also informs us that the name of the rock – Tom baird – is from the Gaelic, meaning the “bard’s knoll”. However, Bruce Baillie (1998) would have it that the The White Stone of Tam Baird,

“has possibly been derived from the Gaelic Tam a Bhaird, ‘the knoll of the enclosure.’”

And there is a large five-sided enclosure on the ridge of Dollar Hill, but that’s quite some distance away and would have little bearing on the naming of this quartz stone.

References:

  1. Baillie, Bruce, History of Dollar, DMT: Dollar 1998.
  2. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to Marion Woolley for directing us to the 1819 Estate map!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.172850, -3.706624 White Stane of Tam Baird

St Austin’s Stone, High Hunsley, East Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SE 93360 34443

Also known as:

  1. St. Augustine’s Stone
  2. St Austin’s Rock

Folklore

St Austins Stone on 1855 map

The folklorist John Nicholson (1890) wrote about this “block of natural concrete standing at the head of Drewton Dale, near South Cave” — which modern OS-maps call Austin Dale.  Legend told how it “derived its name from St. Augustine, who used to preach from this stone to the heathen, before Britain became christian.”  This obviously supplanted an earlier heathen site, but it’s difficult to work out what that may have been.  It could have been the lost ‘Rud Stone’ immediately west; or perhaps had some traditional relationship with the healing well which emerges a short distance away further down the valley.  Just above here as well, we find an ancient dragon’s lair at Drakes Hole, which could also hold a clue to this place.

A couple of years after Nicholson mentioned the site, John Hall (1892) published his excellent history of the township, in which he described St. Austin’s Stone thus:

“It’s a mass of rock projecting from the side of a hill and in its longest part, extending  from the hillside to the face of the stone, measures about 60 feet.  By some it is supposed to have formed a centre for druidical worship, and that the adjoining township took its name of Drewton (or Druid’s Town) from this fact.  When St. Augustine came to England…he is said to have visited this part of the East Riding; and that this stone took its name from his visit.”

St Austins Stone 1890 map

The site was also surmounted by a cross at some time in its recent history, but this has gone.  The earth mystery writer Philip Heselton (1986) told that the nearby Well was indeed a place connected to St. Austin’s Stone, in an early article in Northern Earth Mysteries, saying:

“St. Austins Stone near South Cave is a rock outcrop where Saint Augustine is said to have made converts, baptizing them in a nearby well. The site is used for church services.  Every seven years, part of the stone falls away, but it always grows again.”

The site should be examined for potential cup-and-ring markings; as well as reports on the status of the Well.  Any photos of the present situation of the site would be most welcome.

References:

  1. Gutch, Mrs E., County Folk-Lore volume VI: Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the East Riding of Yorkshire, David Nutt: London 1912.
  2. Hall, John George, A History of South Cave and other Parishes in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Edwin Ombler: Hull 1892.
  3. Nicholson, John, Folk Lore of East Yorkshire, Simpkin Marshall: London 1890.
  4. Thompson, Thomas, Researches into the History of Welton and its Neighbourhood, privately printed: Kingston-upon-Hull 1869.

Links:

  1. St. Austin’s Stone (and Well) on “Yorkshire’s Holy Wells” website

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

St Austin's Stone

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St Austin\'s Stone 53.797937, -0.584062 St Austin\'s Stone

Clach-na-Cruich, Fearnan, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Rock:  OS grid reference – NN 71868 44743

Also known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25037
  2. Clach-na-Gruich
  3. St. Ciaran’s Seat
  4. Measles Stone

Getting Here

Pretty easy to get to.  It’s in one of the fields above the old farmhouse of Boreland on the western edge of Fearnan, a couple of hundred yards away on the other side of the road from the Clach an Tuirc.

Archaeology & History

Clach-na-Cruich in 1884

In the field we find this great chair-shaped boulder with a great ‘bowl’ on it where the seating section is, and on its top and sides are a few cup-markings — MacMillan (1884) noted seven of them, two of which had half-rings around them, “associated together in a singular manner, and forming a figure like the eyes of a pair of spectacles.”

Folklore

Regarded in local legends to be an ancient initiation seat, this was taken over and ordained as being the seat of St. Ciaran at some time when the Celtic church started having influence up here.

The ‘seat’ of this great stone regularly fills up with rainwater and was, wrote William A. Gillies, “regarded as an effectual cure for measles, and there are persons still residing at Fearnan who were taken as children to drink from the water in the hollow of Clach-na-Gruich, the Measles Stone.”  His lengthy account of the site told:

“In the district of Breadalbane, Perthshire – which has in it the Pool of St Fillans, famous for its supposed power of curing mentally afflicted persons – there are two boulders with water-filled cavities, which have a local reputation for their healing virtues. One is at Fernan, situated on the north side of Loch Tay, about three miles from Kenmore. It is a large rough stone with an irregular outline, somewhat like a rude chair, in the middle of a field immediately below the farmhouse of Mr Campbell, Borland. The rest of the field is ploughed; but the spot on which it stands is carefully preserved as an oasis amid the furrows. The material of which it is composed is a coarse clay slate; and the stone has evidently been a boulder transported to the spot from a considerable distance.

“In the centre on one side there is a deep square cavity capable of holding about two quarts of water. I found it nearly full, although the weather had been unusually dry for several weeks previously. There were some clods of earth around it, and a few small stones and a quantity of rubbish in the cavity itself, which defiled the water. This I carefully scooped out, and found the cavity showing unmistakeable evidence of being artificial. On the upper surface of the stone I also discovered seven faint cup-marks, very much weather-worn; two of them associated together in a singular manner, and forming a figure like the eyes of a pair of spectacles.

“The boulder goes in the locality by the name of Clach-na-Cruich, or the Stone of the Measles; and the rain-water contained in its cavity, when drunk by the patient, was supposed to be a sovereign remedy for that disease. At one time it had a wide reputation, and persons afflicted with the disease came from all parts of the district to drink its water. Indeed, there are many persons still alive who were taken in their youth, when suffering from this infantile disease, to the stone at Fernan; and I have met a man not much past forty, who remembers distinctly having drunk the water in the cavity when suffering from measles.

“It is is only within the lifetime of the present generation that the Clach-na-Cruich has fallen into disuse. I am not sure, indeed, whether any one has resorted to it within the last thirty years. Its neglected state would seem to indicate that all faith in it had for many years been abandoned.”

References:

  1. Gillies, William A., In Famed Breadalbane, Munro Press: Perth 1938.
  2. MacMillan, Hugh, ‘Notice of Two Boulders having Rain-Filled Cavities on the Shores of Loch Tay, Formerly Associated with the Cure of Disease,’ in PSAS 18, 1884.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  56.577070, -4.087345 Clach na Cruich